South African cement manufacturers are being severely undermined by cheap imports from countries such as China, Vietnam and Pakistan, an industry official said on Wednesday.
The government's failure to stem the influx of these products could have a severe detrimental impact on an already struggling industry, Databuild CE Morag Evans said in a statement.
Databuild is a knowledge hub for the construction and related industries and a key source of intelligence required by the sector.
“In an industry already in the grips of a severe downturn owing to the decline in infrastructure development, not only are these imports negatively impacting the competitiveness of our local manufacturers, but independent studies have shown the quality of these international products to be inferior," Evans said.
A recent investigation conducted by PPC Cement revealed extensive contravention of cement quality regulations, with the majority of 14 products tested from ten different producers being either over or underweight and of inconsistent quality.
"Allowing sub-standard products to be released into the market is unacceptable, as the long-term health, safety and environmental implications could be severe, to say the least," said Evans.
"Consequently, government should urgently consider imposing stricter cement standards, while cement producers need to continue educating users on the importance of using cement that has been certified as compliant with technical regulations.”
She said the Concrete Institute’s petition to the government to impose 45% import tariffs on cement imports could go a long way toward protecting local manufacturers from cheap imports, noting that imports from Pakistan had declined in 2016 following the implementation of between 17% and 70% import duties.
"South Africa has numerous cement-producing plants which are more than capable of keeping up with local demand," said Evans, noting however that with 158 of the world’s 195 countries producing cement, it could prove challenging to protect local manufacturers.